This post needs a disclaimer. Before Don Mattingly came on the scene in 1983, Reggie Jackson was my favorite player. I had a head-to-toe, Yankees uniform with his number 44 on the back. I still have his Scrapbook which was published in 1978. But when he left New York to go to California, I stopped following him. On the other hand, Jason, one of my best friends on Earth, stayed with Reggie and became an Angels fan. Reggie will always be my pal’s idol. I will always consider Mr. October #2 behind Donnie Baseball.
As you may have figured out by now, the rest of the piece concerns the recent Sports Illustrated feature about Reggie and his comments that have caused a ruckus. The article, written by Phil Taylor, is excellent and is recommended reading for everyone. Out of the five and a half page (when printed) story, it is two quotes that have everyone around baseball buzzing. These are straight from the story, not second-hand reporting.
Quote #1: “I didn’t see Kirby Puckett as a Hall of Famer,” he says. “I didn’t see Gary Carter as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Don Sutton as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Phil Niekro as a Hall of Famer. As much as I like Jim Rice, I’m not so sure he’s a Hall of Famer.”
Of the above names mentioned, the one that caused grief for lots of people was Carter. As you know he died in February at the age of 58 after a courageous battle with brain cancer. Many felt his comments were insensitive given that Carter’s death is still fresh in their minds. While I understand their feelings, can we step back for a minute? He didn’t attack Carter as a player. There was no malice in his quote. Reggie’s point was that he felt the writers had set their standards too low in evaluating who belongs in Cooperstown. All he did was rattle off names from his era that he felt were not Hall-worthy. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. Should fans of Puckett feel disrespected as well? Although he died six years ago, his passing was just as tragic, plus he was 12 years younger than Carter. Is there a waiting period after someone dies before we can critique their career? Again, I can see why people’s feathers were ruffled but they need to understand there was nothing personal in Reggie’s statement.
Quote #2: And A-Rod? “Al’s a very good friend,” Jackson says. “But I think there are real questions about his numbers. As much as I like him, what he admitted about his usage does cloud some of his records.”
This was the quote the made the entire Yankee organization fume and earned Jackson a “suspension” from the team. Read the quote again. Now tell me what was so bad about it? That was an honest and fair statement. Again, nothing malicious about it, nothing personal to it. Rodriguez admitted he took steroids. Many people still feel he will get in simply because he admitted taking them for three years and even if you strike them from the record, his numbers are still good enough for enshrinement. What Jackson said in public would probably be said in private by every member of the Yankees who threw a hissy fit once they read the SI piece. The real reason the Yanks lashed out is because A-Rod is still the Golden Boy. He is the one that may break the all time Home Run Record and finally fill the seats that stay empty in the Stadium during the regular season. If Rodriguez does break the record, how many times will YES show the game within the first 48 hours? 50? 60? Then again, if the Yanks lose the game, all bets are off. By the way, I have my own feeling about Alex Rodriguez but I will save that for a later date.
Reggie Jackson has had many controversial quotes attributed to them over the years. These two don’t belong in that category. Because of his name, he is an easy target. Everyone that was upset. particualry by the Carter comments needs to understand that Jackson was just being open and honest and no ill will was intended. Once again Reggie Jackson became the straw that stirred the drink.
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